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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

It’s Time to Nominate!

As part of our Mock Newbery process on Heavy Medal, we follow the real Committee’s practice of nominating the titles that we feel are most distinguished to this point. Newbery members must nominate a total of seven books: three in October, two in November, and two in December. Along with the titles, Committee members submit a written “justification” for each selection.

The Newbery Manual describes the functions of the nominations:

They serve as a focus for all suggestions made during the year.

The written justifications serve as preparation for oral discussion at Midwinter and provide practice in stating clearly and succinctly your ideas about books that seem distinguished.

Finally, they make each committee member aware of which books require their closest scrutiny and which they need to re-read. (29)

Committee members have been reading intensely for months, but except for a short “practice discussion” session at the ALA Conference in the summer, they do not talk about the books with other members until the final discussion sessions that occur during the Midwinter Conference. So making the nomination, and then seeing what others have nominated, can be very exciting. Reading the justifications helps you see what others have identified as distinguished qualities. Looking at the number of nominations per books can give some indication of the stronger contenders. That can be deceptive, though, especially in October, when members haven’t even read some Fall publications. It’s the Nominated books that will be on the table when the the Committee’s discussion begins at Midwinter.

On Heavy Medal, we’ll follow along with the real Committee in some, but not all ways. Here’s how we’ll do nominations, starting today with the October round:

  • Select three titles for your October nomination. Committee members are required to name exactly three, and we’ll keep to that practice.
  • You can also share a bit about why you chose any or all of your books…but that’s not required. Just listing the three titles is fine; adding some justification is also allowed.
  • Enter your nominations in the comments below by Saturday, October 10th. I’ll total them up and share results on the 11th. The other nomination periods will start on the first Mondays of November and December.
  • In December, we’ll announce the Heavy Medal Mock List: this is the list of titles that we’ll discuss and vote as part of the Mock Newbery process. That list won’t necessarily be a straight list of the books that have received the most nominations, but the nominations we get from readers will be a major factor in the selection.

We discussed some of the strategies involved in Committee nominations on HM a couple years ago, which you can read here. If you have any questions about the nomination process, either here on HM or within the real Newbery Committee, feel free to ask them in the comments. Nominations are now open….

Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

Steven Engelfried is the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at


  1. Amanda Bishop says:

    Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
    From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
    When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

  2. Julie Corsaro Corsaro says:


  3. Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
    A Many Feathered Thing by Lisa Gerlits
    Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

  4. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    As always, this was a tough process.
    I started with A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS, which worked in just about every way for me. Character, plot, and style were individually distinct and meshed perfectly. I kind of got caught up in the story, and look forward to re-reading while paying more attention to the author’s skill.
    ON THE HORIZON stood out for me, and some of the reasons are in a previous post. I’m still not sure that the greatest appreciation for this book won’t come from adults, rather than children, but I want it on the table for sure.
    I think I always nominate at least one nonfiction book in October. I worry that nf doesn’t get considered as often, so I feel obliged. THE RISE AND FALL OF CHARLES LINDBERGH stands out for me so far.
    That leaves out some books I rate very highly. I’m guessing that others will name FIGHTING WORDS, ECHO MOUNTAIN, and LIST OF THINGS. I’m less confident that WISH IN THE DARK, HERE IN THE REAL WORLD, and BLACK, BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER will make people’s top 3’s. And there will surely be some great books that I’ll be reading between now and December (just finished RETURN OF THE THIEF). It gets even harder…

    • Julie Corsaro says:

      Thanks for putting A GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS on my radar. Right now, ECHO MOUNTAIN is in my fourth spot. But the insights offered on this blog help refine my thinking and have already reshuffled my line up, so I’ll see what happens!

  5. Leonard Kim says:


    These aren’t my favorite books of 2020 — I didn’t even give BLACKBIRD GIRLS 5 stars on Goodreads, but based on the books being talked about, I think they need to stay in the forefront of discussion. Books I actually liked more probably have little realistic chance as sequels (THIEF KNOT, SAL AND GABI). And I think some of the best-written books (LIST OF THINGS, KENT STATE, ALL THE DAY PAST) might have “child audience” issues that hurt their chances. I’ll probably nominate DRAGON HOOPS next month.

    • Julie Corsaro says:

      I know you’ve brought up the “child audience” issue previously regarding THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE, Leonard, but I really don’t see it. As Steven said, it’s “deceptively complex.” I’d put the emphasis on “deceptively.” With brisk chapters; an emphasis on the concrete and specific; confined settings in big spaces; relatable characters, including a lead who does a bad thing and more than anything wants a sisters; a focus on family; artful simplicity in writing style both in words and images; and, most importantly, an emphasis on emotions, it strikes me as a book that will sit well with a middle grade audience, particularly with fifth and sixth graders. I will follow your lead and finally read DRAGON HOOPS. But I’m wondering if you can say more about why you think THE LIST OF THINGS THAT WILL NOT CHANGE is problematic when it comes to a “child audience.” Thanks.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Hi Julie, what I wrote was, “I recognize Rebecca Stead as a great writer, but sometimes I wonder if her greatness can escape younger readers.” I agree with what you say about “brisk chapters; an emphasis on the concrete and specific. . . artful simplicity in writing style both in words and images.” But to me, these characteristics mean a great deal of emotional intelligence is needed on the part of the reader to unpack what is really going on, a level of emotional intellgence I do not believe I had as a 5th-6th grade reader. I could well be wrong about this, and I do think some readers will relate to Bea if they can imagine responding to things the way she does. I don’t have the book available, but grabbing an example from an online preview, on pages 42-43 is a scene where a younger Bea is leaving a party where she shoved another kid. The host is telling Bea’s mother about this, Bea and her mother squeeze hands, and then Bea throws the party bag at the host. All of this is recounted during one of Bea’s sessions with Miriam and ends up being a key moment (in Bea’s eyes) in their relationship. All of Stead’s greatness is on display here — she understands Bea, and maybe I do too, but maybe some readers won’t? (Carrie’s mom, a plausible adult, probably didn’t.) I guess what I am saying is that I think you need to be a really good reader (of books? of people?) to read Stead, and if I have doubts about my own fitness to read her, I am even less sure about less-experienced readers.


  7. Hannah Mermelstein says:

    Only two for now:

  8. Aud Hogan says:


    But there are a couple of others I had to ponder pretty hard!


  10. 1. A Game of Fox & Squirrels, by Jenn Reese. I have read this one twice, and I appreciated the richness of the writing each time. The interplay between reality and the game are spot-on, and the characters are dynamic. The book has the perfect balance of appealing writing and child appeal that I think all Newbery books should have.
    2. Fighting Words, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. The voice, well-balance of humor and heart and the skill with which Bradley addresses difficult themes are truly effective.
    3. Echo Mountain, by Lauren Wolk. Effective setting and lyrical writing made this one stand out to me.

  11. Julie Corsaro says:

    Thanks so much for elaborating, Leonard, and reminding me of that pivotal scene, which foreshadows Bea’s later revelation about what really happened at the cottage. It’s not a book the actual committee can bring up, but I think one of the reasons Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE resonates so much is that most kids recognize on some level, even if it is a subconscious one, strong feelings and emotions.They all have them, even if they can’t name them, or if the adults around them would like to suppress them.

  12. ESE Librarian Bob says:

    SHOW ME A SIGN by Ann Clare LeZotte—a watershed historical novel with the 1st great heroine for the Deaf community. All of the story threads run perfectly throughout the book, like the stained map Mary carries. The author renders sign language conversation with great nuance and complexity. The research is immaculate, including substantive work (I’m biracial) in Afro-Indigenous circles. Not only are my DDHHDB students waiting for the next exciting installment in Mary’s adventures, but one of their moms keeps asking if it will be translated into an ASL school play. All kids will question ‘normality.’

    KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES by Kacen Callender—another watershed: the first Black Gay MC in MG. The author fearlessly tackles the nearly taboo subject of Black homophobia. Why take the easy route? King is not always a likable narrator—which makes him complex, fascinating and ultimately endearing. Sandy also jumps off the page. (Honestly rendered best friendships in this and SMAS.) Can we talk about the magical realism prose? It keeps coming and makes you gasp. I agree with Stephen King that “kids see the world in IMAX.” We can challenge them with groundbreaking, fascinating stuff that will make them think and might change their lives.

    Also agree with Stephen E about THE GAME OF FOX AND SQUIRRELS and Leonard K with ALMOST AMERICAN GIRL.

    An unusual combination of genres and literary allusions, irony and humor, poetic descriptions, with single illustrations and graphic sequences. This book speaks profoundly about the author’s own experiences, Jewish history, the nature of childhood, and the consolations of art.
    The World War II setting, loving family, and community seem nostalgic on the surface, but this unpretentious novel does not idealize the past. Hest uses authentic voices of child narrators to look at perennial questions about grief, love, and the intersection of public events and private lives.
    PRAIRIE LOTUS – Linda Sue Park.
    The sophistication with which Park creates a dialogue between Hanna’s story and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books is outstanding. The descriptions of racism and hatred are unstinting, and are realistically interwoven with a portrait of Hanna as an individual coming of age and finding her identity.

  14. Ooh – this is very hard. My list:
    KING AND THE DRAGONFLIES – Kacen Callendar
    for distinctive style and character and presentation and setting and heart (surely this is a medal-worthy quality!)
    WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER – Tae Keller (style and presentation mostly, love the weaving)
    A MANY FEATHERED THING – Lisa Gerlits (my first love, a debut novel that knocked my socks off!)

  15. Kelly I.E. says:

    We Dream of Space – Erin Entrada Kelly
    The List of Things That Will Not Change – Rebecca Stead
    Dragon Hoops – Gene Luen Yang

  16. Cherylynn says:

    1. WISH IN THE DARK for brilliantly drawn characters, setting, and fantasy world building.
    2. WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER for character development and style.
    3. HERE IN THE REAL WORLD for character development and setting.

  17. 1. WHEN STARS ARE SCATTERED for distinguished setting, character development, and themes.
    2. WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER for distinguished themes.
    3. STAMPED because, even though it’s technically an adaptation, I perceive it as so different from the original that it might have a chance and it’s so perfectly written for a teen audience (including the “up to 14” audience) that I’m wiling to “throw away” my slot on the off-chance that the committee agrees with me that a “re-mix” is not quite the same thing as an adaptation.

    So many things I still need to read!

  18. Kate Todd says:

    WISH IN THE DARK by Christina Soontornvat
    A mythical world reflects inequities in our own society.

    BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER by Jewell Parker Rhodes
    Multiracial family provides a unique way to explore discrimination based on skin color.

    ECHO MOUNTAIN by Lauren Will
    Reimagining life after cataclysmic events disrupt the world.

  19. Two of my favorites were published this week so I’m adding them now!

    PRAIRIE LOTUS by Linda Sue Park–Vivid, beautiful writing that transports you to a different time and place.
    BECOMING MUHAMMAD ALI by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson–I read an uncorrected advanced copy with poor ebook formatting and it still was one of the best reading experiences of my year. Alexander writes poetry from the perspective of Ali as a teenager and Patterson writes prose from the perspective of Ali’s childhood best friend. Really engaging text that illuminates so much of Ali’s background in such a kid-friendly way. The writing is gorgeous, especially Alexander’s poetry.
    CLASS ACT by Jerry Craft — follow up to NEW KID expands the point of view and brings up some heavy topics like class in authentic ways. The whole section about having a school diversity group was searing and deeply uncomfortable. That’s what I really appreciate about Craft’s writing. The kids he depicts are not stupid. They know the context they’re in and often are more discerning than the adults in their life who had been conditioned to pretend. In addition to the text, the illustrations are just astonishing and include many laugh-out-loud scenes. I thought it was stronger than NEW KID.

  20. The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming
    Who Gives a Poop? Surprising Science from One End to the Other by Heather L. Montgomery
    Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park

    • Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson for themes of love and friendship
      The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman for setting and character development
      The Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest for its nonlinear style of storytelling

  21. Wish in the Dark
    When Stars are Scattered
    Show Me A Sign

  22. Emily Mroczek says:

    From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks
    When Stars Are Scattered by Omar Mohamed and Victoria Jamieson
    Echo Mountain by Laura Wolk

  23. Fighting Words
    A Ceiling Made of Eggshells by Gail Carson Levine
    Blackbird Girls

  24. I know this may be too late to count but I so appreciate this blog. I have some catching up to do on the October releases.
    When You Trap a Tiger
    Echo Mountain
    When Stars are Scattered

    • Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

      Not to late to count, Ellen. We’re accepting October Nominations through the end of the day today!

  25. Danielle Jones says:

    Leaving Lymon – chef’s kiss for characterization and emotional resonance
    Prairie Lotus – world building, character, plot
    Game of Fox and Squirrels – world building, emotional resonance and plot

  26. A Place at the Table
    Three Keys
    The List of Things That Will Not Change